Last week was just plain emotionally exhausting! As the mom of a child who experienced severe early childhood trauma, a mom who has spent the last two decades immersed in the study of what these early traumas (abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, separation from your parent) do to the developing brains of infants and toddlers, the news of what was happening at our southern border was overwhelming.
I spent the first 24 hours after I read my first news report searching all media outlets, hoping that the original report I’d read was greatly exaggerated. I truly wanted to believe it was “fake news.” But as time went on, the news of increasing numbers of children in shelters and of young children being separated was confirmed, even by the administration’s own words and actions.
ATN has always worked hard to maintain a neutral position when it comes to religion and politics. Our board truly believes that more children and families are supported and our message about early childhood trauma and the importance of healthy attachment if we don’t identify with specific religions or political parties. This means that each of us individually have to rein in our opinions. The hope is that collectively we are able to put forth the trauma-informed, attachment-focused, child-centered message the world needs from us. When we do weigh in on policy, it is from this perspective.
The rest of last week was spent in discussions of whether to issue a statement, develop a sign-on letter, or in some other way show our dismay at large numbers of children being separated from their parents by our government. The decision was a resounding YES…but then a puzzling HOW. We had a sign-on letter finished literally 15 minutes before we heard that the president was signing an executive order last Wednesday, June 20. So we revamped and issued the sign-on letter as a direct statement of the harm of separating children from their parents and have posted it here along with links, resources, and information on proposed legislation around this issue:
On Saturday, I had the honor of speaking to our local foster parent association about the impact of early trauma on our children’s brain development and how we recognize this through their behavior…and the hope that comes from parenting these children in trauma-informed, attachment-focused ways. While the specifics of what I presented were new to many there, the concept that children coming into foster homes had experienced significant trauma was an accepted fact. This was not the case 20 years ago. We now recognize, as a society, that removing children from their parents produces harmful levels of toxic stress. We still do it, in the case of foster care, because we believe it to be in the best interest of a child who is in a dangerous, abusive, neglectful situation. But we do this while at the same time increasing care and support for the children and their receiving families. The goal is to help these children build healthy attachment and, ultimately, resilience that will enable them to weather future traumas and move toward emotional health.
All children deserve this level of stability and overall emotional health. Removing them from their parents must be a decision based solely on the child’s best interest…not on any other reason. Children are too precious – their ability to become healthy, productive adults and parents who will shape future generations, rides on these decisions.
The events of the last few weeks became very personal for me, and for the board and membership of ATN. It was not a matter of our political leanings, how we feel about immigration, or who is running the country. It was about not causing trauma when we know first-hand that childhood trauma is so very hard to heal. At ATN it was, is, and will always be about the children!